Matthew Gioia

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Matthew began seeking alternative educational environments halfway through his college experience. He participated in Naropa University's "contemplative education program" in Boulder, CO,  and studied at St. John's College in Santa Fe, NM, which offers a Great Books curriculum.  From there, he moved to Mississippi to teach in a rural middle school and attend the Ole Miss on weekends.  Matthew came to HVSS by way of a search for a place where he is permitted to respect children and teenagers as fully human beings.  At school these days, Matthew loves to play sports, run the Judicial Committee, teach history and writing, and try making jokes.

Articles by the Author

Apprentice Learning

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One of the most effective ways of learning a new skill is through an apprenticeship.  This style of learning is essential to a Sudbury model school and is practiced naturally all day, every day.  This blog entry gives a couple examples of this style of learning in action.

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Open Letter (rant) to Those Who Advocate the “Tough Love” of Traditional Schools

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One criticism of the Sudbury model that comes up again and again is that it fails to “prepare kids for the ‘Real World’” because Sudbury provides too ideal an environment.  Sudbury spoils them by daring to respect children and teenagers as full-blooded human beings.  In contrast, the Real World is anti-human and is going to disrespect, subjugate, and crush them as soon as it gets its hooks into them.

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Right to Remain Silent Law?

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I am a new staff member here at Hudson Valley Sudbury School.  I moved from Massachusetts with my wife Ana and our baby Susannah to be a part of this place, and this post is meant to offer some insight into why we would do that.  

Last Friday evening my friend Douglas called me up to ask how it was going.  We’ve both taught in public schools, and one way we liked to describe the atmosphere in those schools was “tense boredom.”  In was tense because we were charged with ensuring that at all times our students were behaving according to enthusiastically precise guidelines...

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The Qualities of a Sudbury Education

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]Last year I spent my afternoons tutoring students who came to me mostly from high-powered traditional private schools. I didn't do much during sessions; I spoke casually with the students, commiserated, encouraged, laughed, asked occasional questions, and tried to stay out of their way as they navigated the difficulties of compulsory performance. But the students, their parents, and the owner of the company all thought I was doing a lot, and they happily bestowed upon me the credit for improvements...

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Chase and Pursuit

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Recently, a staff member made a motion to put a defunct law called “Chase and Pursuit,” which forbids indoors chase games, back onto the books.  It passed to Second Reading, which means that it can be made into official school law at the following meeting.  But this law proved to be controversial, and the debate that followed revealed how in a democratic community even a seemingly simple proposition involves a complex web of implications.  In a small direct democracy, different perspectives inform and balance each other; it’s harder to get things done than in autocratic systems, but what’s done generally has more consideration behind it.

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What are They Doing?

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Well it’s the first warm day of March, and most people here are outside, climbing trees and rolling in the mud, building sandcastles and playing street hockey.  I just played a game a student created called, “Sharktooth.”  I lost.  I was also, for a time, the overburdened father of two very demanding young girls, busily making dinners to order (why do I let them get away with that?!)  while attempting to regulate their screen-time (the “screen” was a slab of bluestone) and mediate their conflicts (you’d have to be a saint to do this well, I assured myself). I had to quit that game after less than an hour.  People sometimes complain about “kids these days” preferring the virtual world to the outdoors, but I don’t think it’s true; when all the obstacles - obstacles that adults have created -  are removed,  they go outside.  A lot, and really in all weather, not only when it’s nice.  But the spirit today is more celebratory than usual.

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Sudbury and the FEAR OF FALLING BEHIND

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Not long ago a parent told me that her son had “never been happier” since he enrolled earlier this spring.  And indeed, that very morning I had seen him running across the back hill with his arms outstretched and his head thrown back; it was like a scene from Free Willy.  His parent told me that, while his former school had stretched itself to make things work for him, he remained miserable there.  His needs, for space and time and companionship, were not being met.  I hear it a lot: it was like trying to fit the old round peg into the unforgiving square hole, but here, at last, there was no hole to conform to.  Out the window at this moment I can see three little bands of kids wandering the grounds, gesticulating excitedly, creating worlds beyond my kin.  One of them has green hair and no shirt.  One of them is carrying a bag by a strap around his forehead.  And one of them is being led by another...on a leash.  It’s so easy to forget that homo sapiens have developed a complex set of needs - and the skills to meet them - over 200,000 years of evolution, and they are embedded in us like algorithms that find expression one way or another.  We need to explore our identities and forge them in the context of intense social interaction in order to be successful, healthy, and happy.  Welcome to our “school.”

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Alumni Interview with Colin Thrapp

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What have you been up to since graduation?

Well during my last year at school I worked at Outdated Cafe in Kingston one day per week.  I started there doing prep work - chopping vegetables, etc.  After graduation, I jumped right into working full-time as a dishwasher at Outdated, which I did for about six months, before moving on to being a prep cook for 8 months and then finally I was a head cook for the rest of my time there.  The experience showed me that I did really want to be a cook, although I wanted to work somewhere I could prepare food that was a little nicer, and I wanted to learn about meat (and Outdated is a vegetarian cafe).   I wanted broader knowledge of food, so one day I went across the street to the world-class butchery there, Fleishers, and asked the manager Bryan, “what’s the best way to learn how to butcher?” and he said, “Do you want a job?”

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Welcome Back to Choice

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That school bell’s ringin’! Giddap! Whoa! Welcome back, everyone.

As I write this, the rest of the staff are scurrying around, collating files, scrubbin’ tiles, and wrastlin’ crocodiles, puttin in dat elbow grease, while I tap away on my keyboard, 33 tabs open in chrome, planning next summer.  Just kidding - I’m working harder than anyone else, I’m sure you’ll agree.  I happen to be drinking coffee, too, and for some reason today my coffee tastes like grilled cheese, and strangely enough, I love it.  I’m just slurpin’ it down.  Go figure.

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To What Will They Return?

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The best thing about working “in education” is, undoubtedly, the summer. Oh wait, I mean the kids - the best thing is the kids. Wellllll, no - sorry! - it’s the summer, as much as I do love the kids (at least when I’m not responsible for the choices they make, the lessons they learn, the things they say, and the thoughts they think!) For me, having this uninterrupted time to immerse myself in interests and friends old and new, deepen my connection to my home, neighborhood, and region, travel, keep hours regular or irregular, and be with family, is a treasure I guard most jealously; it is a great, fatty, nourishing privilege. For me, just as it is for many children, summer is the Land of Space and Time Enough, which really is the only land fit for human habitation. Each year, I have the space and time to connect with what’s really happening in my inner life; I can let the changes which constantly brew there wash over me. I can, like the flora, exult in a state of robust health and growth. Having significant time in which to direct my own activity makes me feel very, very rich indeed, and in possession of myself, or, to put it slightly differently, free

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Hudson Valley Sudbury School

84 Zena Road
Kingston, NY 12401
 
Phone: 845-679-1002
Fax: 845-679-3874